How to Prioritize Your Spending

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Don’t buy that.

At least take a few moments to decide if it’s really worth buying.

Too often, people go on auto-pilot and buy whatever catches their attention for a few moments.  The end-caps at the store?  Oh, boy, that’s impossible to resist.  Everybody needs a 1000 pack of ShamWow’s, right?   Who could live without a extra pair of kevlar boxer shorts?

Before you put the new tchotke in your cart, ask yourself some questions to see if it’s worth getting.

1. Is it a need or a want? Is this something you could live without?   Some things are necessary.  Soap, shampoo, and food are essentials.  You have to buy those.  Other things, like movies, most of the clothes people buy, or electronic gadgets are almost always optional.   If you don’t need it, it may be a good idea to leave it in the store.

2. Does it serve a purpose?  I bought a vase once that I thought was pretty and could hold candy or something, but it’s done nothing but collect dust in the meantime.  It’s purpose is nothing more than hiding part of a flat surface.   Useless.

3. Will you actually use it? A few years ago, my wife an cleaned out her mother’s house.   She’s a hoarder.   We found at least 50 shopping bags full of clothes with the tags still attached.   I know, you’re thinking that you’d never do that, because you’re not a hoarder, but people do it all the time.  Have you ever bought a book that you haven’t gotten around to reading, or a movie that went on the shelf, still wrapped in plastic?   Do you own a treadmill that’s only being used to hang clothes, or a home liposuction machine that is not being used to make soap?

3. Is it a fad? Beanie babies, iPads, BetaMax, and bike helmets.  All garbage that takes the world by storm for a few years then fades, leaving the distributors rich and the customers embarrassed.

4. Is it something you’re considering just to keep up with the Joneses? If you’re only buying it to compete with your neighbors, don’t buy it.  You don’t need a Lexus, a Rolex, or that replacement kidney.  Just put it back on the shelf and go home with your money.  Chances are, your neighbors are only buying stuff so they can compete with you.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Break it.

5. Do you really, really want it? Sometimes, no matter how worthless something might be, whether it’s a fad, or a dust-collecting knick-knack, or an outfit you’ll never wear, you just want it more than you want your next breath of air.  That’s ok.  A bit disturbing, but ok.  If you are meeting all of your other needs, it’s fine to indulge yourself on occasion.

How do you prioritize spending if you’re thinking about buying something questionable?

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